I arrived at the hotel. I checked my notes on my phone for the room number and made my way up. I entered a small suite with 2 queen sized beds laden with various bags, articles of clothes and different pieces of packaging. Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. It only got bad when I realized I was sitting around making small talk with the bride’s sister and her kids for about 15mins.
That day’s bride, let’s call her “Louisa”, was constantly answering her phone, responding to logistical questions from different people. The more she answered the phone, the more frustrated she got until finally, she ended her last call. Louisa looked at her sister, and her sister reciprocated the glance then she asked Louisa, “Have you taken a shower yet?”
She scanned each of our faces almost as if she was looking for approval for what to respond. “I still need to shower”, she said.
I quietly died inside because I only had an hour at the hotel before I had to leave to set up at the ceremony location. Of course, I was going to encourage her to go take a shower; she wasn’t trying to roll up to her own wedding as the B.O. queen. At this point, however, I had been there for 35 of my 60 allotted minutes for prep and my memory card was still missing shots of the bride. By the time she would finish in the shower, I would have to leave. Make-up was delayed, hair was delayed and everyone was on edge (not a good place to be the only man in the room and pointing a camera).
I decided to head to the ceremony. As I was slipping on my shoes with my camera bag draped over one shoulder, I overheard Louisa’s sister talking with the hotel front desk as she got her reminder of check-out in 15mins.
To say Louisa had a rough start to her day would be a mean understatement. The ceremony and reception are so meticulously planned; your decor, vendors, seating arrangements, permits are usually all set by the wedding day. However, many couples often overlook the morning prep. If it requires people to be in a certain place at a certain time performing a certain task, you should plan it as meticulously as the rest of the day. You set a precedent for your wedding day with the first few hours of it.
Here are 6 guidelines to help you plan your morning prep like a boss and, if nothing else, save yourself some headache on the big day.
Location, location, location!
Whether your day leads with a first-look or the ceremony, try to be near your next location. In fact, the closer, the better. The smaller the distance, the less potential for problematic traffic. In fact, there are just less variables to deal with when you’re closer. Also, if you’re closer, the impact on your day is minimized in the situation that, let’s say, you forget something. Being close allows someone to double back with more ease. You’re also saving gas and potential travel fees depending on how you plan to move everyone around.
NOTE for Hotels: Remember to get a late check-out or have a booking that goes beyond the time you need to leave. It is VERY stressful for everyone when your entourage is trying to get ready and is also packing up the room at the same time! Remember Louisa from the intro? So, she ended up doing a part of her prep, checked out of the hotel and then came to the ceremony location to finish getting dressed. I’m not making this up. Don’t ever think you’re immune to poor planning.
Avoid the crowd
Based on where you’ve chosen to get ready, make sure you have enough space for everyone to get ready… comfortably. For all you couples with those 20-person wedding parties, I would strongly advise you scrap those dream photos of the whole squad getting ready in a row (unless you have a huge space, then of course!). You and I both know how overwhelming it can be sharing one bathroom and shuffling around other people, sorting through different piles of belongings.
For couples with larger wedding parties or families, hotels are the best option because you can book blocks of rooms and keep everyone close but still have manageable space for everyone to get ready. However, if there is a sentimental (or budgetary) attachment to a house or smaller space, consider having a cross section of the crowd stay with you and have the rest come already dressed close to the end of your time in the morning. The latter group can also meet directly at the first location.
And on the note of crowds, we should definitely mention clutter. You don’t want to plan a part of your event with clutter. It can result in a certain claustrophobia. Clutter can also result in, what I like to call, mental constipation; for some people it’s hard to think when everything around them is a mess.
Also, it looks horrible on camera (stills and motion). You may start with a space that is neat and tidy, but remember that can change rapidly with a few friends dropping their stuff and getting ready (sometimes frantically). Keep the space as tidy as possible as the morning progresses. For example, allocate areas for bags and suitcases, and keep them there.
Don’t set up shop in the bathroom
I always ask… beg… plead… and demand that my brides NOT allow their hair and make-up to be done in the bathroom. A good make-up artist (MUA) will set up their station in beautiful natural light (i.e. sunlight) when available. Having the sun illuminate your face instead of a gross tungsten light will be a better representation for your MUA to do your make-up. In addition, your beauty will shine on camera (pun intended). I mean, who wants to have a banana complexion in their wedding film?
Below are a few examples of how good quality sunlight
can help create beautiful images. It even works for the guys!
If anyone, including your hair stylist, suggests doing your hair in the bathroom or in some dark corner of the room, put your foot down and insist that you set up shop by a window!
The cameras are coming!
Please inform your people that pros with cameras are showing up. Let’s just say it’s not fun being greeted with the deer-in-headlights look. It can be intimidating for some people to be photographed or filmed. Adding the factor that said people may not be fully “dolled-up” when we arrive, it can tug on some insecurities.
Don’t get me wrong: the pros need to do their best in being approachable and friendly, and there will always be some level of adjustment needed for all parties. Nevertheless, there is no pep talk needed - just inform them that we’re coming.
Hand it to your assistant
Please don’t make yourself the point of contact for your own wedding! In fact, this point deserves it’s own blog post. This happens especially with brides (naturally, since they are typically most involved in the planning process). Vendors should not be calling your phone in the morning, or at any time in the day, to coordinate the event.
It’s very easy to underestimate how stressful and busy the wedding day is… not just for someone working for several hours to bring it to fruition, but also for the bride and groom (who, ironically, should be focusing on enjoying the day). In the same way, you probably had a rude awakening about how busy your life would become when doing wedding planning. You WILL NOT be able to relax and live in the moment of the day if you’re constantly answering logistical questions and putting out fires (“issues” happen at 100% of weddings)
Instead, hire yourself a day-of wedding coordinator if you don’t already have a wedding planner. If you prefer not to go the professional route, choose a wise friend who is very organized, professional, a good communicator and punctual, who doesn’t mind sacrificing their comfort and social life on the day of your wedding. This person will be that point of contact for your family, vendors and anyone else who needs information.
You, on the other hand, should focus on the fact that your life is going to change dramatically on this day. Your participation in the planning stops the night before the wedding.
The first few hours really impact the tone of the rest of the day. Plan your morning preparations as cleanly as you plan the rest of your day and you’ll have a better chance at smooth sailing throughout your day.
You’re more than welcome to use these tips. If you know someone else who’s slugging through their planning, forward this post to them!
As we narrate together.
Ryan Walters, the founder and operator of Aperture Lane. Look forward to sharing great stories with you!